Back to Issue Thirty-Seven

In Dead Horse Point, We are Alone

2021 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry – Finalist


and you are telling me your new father
is being deported. Riding past rivers

unrushed by summer. There, sober and brilliant,
we find quail nests. Little bones like those once in Bogot​á.
We find eggs in open tender parenthesis.​ Look. T​his is how

our world has been this fragile,
how we are cut from the navel and scattered. Desert water
evaporates before it ever wets ​Lahori ​lines

of orange trees, the fruit that taught how to slice
our world.​ Naranja​ or N​aarangi ​is a tart tautology.
Rhyming with nothing in America. Vibrating echo

in both Spanish and Hindi. ​Naarangi
travels from India to Spain, was handed
in ravished fists, like the Earth itself by Marco Polo

to hungry monarchs. Crystallized and jeweled
arancia i​n Sicily. Carried in sweetened braids
of a small bride, or the dead-eyed unanimal

glint of guns, as tangy n​aranja
into the New World. Silently
“j” is left out there hanging

from its hook. It was half- night. Whispering
midnight is​ aadhi-raat.​ We leaned again on
silver beams of a motorcycle sweetly christened,

El Burro. C​ircling darkened eyes, tying
hammocks from Aspen trees, sewn out and in
air eddies of hummingbirds.

Covered in pine needles, we pointed
singing names back in English. In Spanish.
In Hindi.​ How can we say Father? Walls?

Together? Escape? ​Sloughed skin
of a rattlesnake breaks through
and under chains. The skin bleached

white in silverhurry of moon’s or ​chandini’s
reflection. A spiral worn soft as the hand-
me-downs of our starving brown

grandmothers: A​buela ​and​ Nani​ across
latitudes who once ate orange
out of oranges, down to smiles

of slithering pulp and rind.
Rinsing my hands under metallic tips
of common stars —

if we were to do it again, ride and die again
with you, ​El Burro​ out there at half-night, this time
ride and die again, in the warm breath

of our tent, I’d say
salam​ and hold you so
with the American choreography

of a pigskin flying
to be caught
by a child, whose real father,

like yours, rode and died
and only returned




Elegy for a Newborn Mariner

2021 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry – Finalist


A floatless litter is on the shore.
The bones of an unknown womb.
And in the night and after the rain,

from a car mirror I witness and stop
in the same young desire that determines

a stranger’s nakedness feels warmer
than our own flesh. I’ve held out for the dead
to become less dead, and each year I’ve found

more assuring sugar that ferments the soft coil
and polaroid of moth wings. You the light

that arrives in fescues to direct me to reefs
to teach in tides femur-high how to look
for sea treasure and signs. Now how blue

and still the lone island of memory that calls me
to the ocean to think of your birth, our Father

holding you after the umbilical cord, a line,
that made you live, and then unlive, was untangled
by nurses around your neck like a fishing line.

You who could have been my brother.
Here each reminder of life itself, here is the water:

as if watching a baby’s body move
under blankets. All dog-paddles
of white waves riding along

the fringe of the frozen ocean.
I’m in the shore’s narrowed alley touching

the Himalayas calcified, another carbonate
skeleton. The coral looks like a brain,
suspended in this impossible shape,

marbled in water’s choreographies,
and in each discovery, and each polyp

of this magnitude, just the neurobrine
that salts the inside fever of my aging,
soft head and each thought of you

moonwater, and safe, and half-dark.


Note: “In Dead Horse Point, We are Alone” previously appeared in The American Poetry Review. We are grateful to reprint this poem as part of Jai Hamid Bashir’s Djanikian Scholars Finalist portfolio.


Born to Pakistani-American immigrant artists, Jai Hamid Bashir was raised in The American West. Jai has been published by The American Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review, Guernica Magazine, Academy of American Poets, and others. Jai is a graduate of Columbia University and the recent winner of awards such as Zócalo’s Ninth Annual Poetry Prize.

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